Flubbing your Survival and History rolls to orient yourselves, your whole group became completely disoriented in the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes. Your only meals included giant ant lion legs and the elven Queen of the Desert’s trail rations. . . Until you came upon a shop.
The ominous phrase LOCAL hung above the door, a fact your wizard identified immediately. (Isn’t it great to have a literate person in the party?) You entered to find a pair of gith: hobbling, freakish brutes of the desert, accusing you of touching “the precious things of the shop” and calling you “degenerates” right after you stepped in the door. Brilliant customer service, really.
They talked a big game, but your Intimidate rolls worked beautifully: the yokels decided your “city powers” were too strong, and retreated—not without some cryptic warnings regarding the sandstorm building outside. The female gith gave you two waterskins, and told you that your future was dire, and not all was as it seemed. . . Or something. You weren’t really listening.
Wander, your resident library of lore, could hear voices in the wind. You didn’t think much of this until the sandstorm began whispering “BLOOD” and actually chasing you through the desert! You fought to survive, losing several healing surges until you finally came upon civilization. . . After a sort.
What you found was a run-down, out-of-the-way tavern in a small dusty valley. The fence around it was encrusted with rusted old wire, the hitches in the front were empty, and a large barn loomed to one side, with a light glimmering on the top floor. The sign beside the door of the pub read THE JACKAL’S DEN in faded lettering. You entered the rickety building to find it packed with patrons! What luck—they even had some water in stock! The proprieter introduced herself as Matron, a heavily pregnant curly-haired tavern wench with a perpetual tray of ale on hand. It was a stroke of luck that you’d even found this place at all. . .
Of course, not everything was sunshine and rainbows. Crouched at the bar, studiously avoiding the massive barkeep Hakir, was your old enemy Belthis Val. The noble was clearly drunk, royally pissed, and armed to the teeth with protective spells—he was not having the time of his life as literally everyone else in the tavern appeared to be. Curious, you buddied up to the wealthy defiler wizard—and began to figure out something wasn’t right.
At first, the eerie warnings Belthis murmured to you made no sense. The patrons had been drinking for 18 hours, he claimed; the Matron of the bar had “the wrong shadow” and the place was miles from any main roads. Immediately the group began to debate furiously: Wander was convinced Belthis was playing the party for fools, while Sol merely wished to understand the puzzle before them. “Queen,” your elven knight, went from convinced the wine was poisoned to chugging pints of ale when Belthis warned not to “give yourselves away” to “the enemy.”
A game of cat and mouse ensued. With Insight checks and Arcana, it became apparent the taverngoers were not human, but some sort of shapeshifters, stuffed into human skins. . . Matron Delilah, the bar’s owner, became more and more overbearing until Belthis decided to strike out on his own into the sandstorm. You heard a scream, and never saw him again.
On that pleasant note, the group decided to take the only refuge left to them: the second floor. Matron’s “husband,” Lodd the tiefling, came by with sheets—and Sol used “Instant Friends” on him. The roll failed, but not without results—Lodd was desperate to help the Den’s next victims, and warned “Don’t wake the Baby” before fleeing downstairs to an unknown fate.
As an hour slithered by, the party refusing to sleep in Matron’s comfortable beds, Wander noticed a shadow moving strangely on the wall. . . And tackled it! This turned out to be a good move as the blotch of darkness came alive and a bizarre combat ensued. Finally, Queen managed to do enough damage to the Insubstantial creature that it was torn to pieces. The group charged downstairs, only to find the bar empty. . .